$1.4 billion for Evergreen transit line

By Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun

METRO VANCOUVER — Federal funding for the long-awaited $1.4-billion Evergreen Line is expected to be announced Thursday by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Although no details of the announcement were released Wednesday, it was being billed as involving “federal support for a significant infrastructure project.”

The 11-kilometre rapid transit line, which would link Burnaby, Port Moody and Coquitlam, was part of a B.C. government wish list presented to federal Transport Minister John Baird in December.

The list included projects to be accelerated under a federal government scheme to stimulate the economy and create jobs in 2009-10.

Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini, who has lobbied to have the Evergreen Line built before the 2010 Olympic Games, said he is confident the project will finally be given the green light.

“All I can say is this is going to be it. I do not want to think this is going to be another letdown,” Trasolini said. “We’ve been left at the altar a few times.”

Rapid transit to the northeast corner of Metro Vancouver has been delayed many times over the years, most recently when the Canada Line to Richmond became the provincial government’s top priority.

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon was on his way home Wednesday from Ottawa, where he had been meeting with Baird to discuss infrastructure projects, and couldn’t be reached.

But he, along with Premier Gordon Campbell, International Trade Minister Stockwell Day, and Port Moody MP James Moore, will be at TransLink’s maintenance centre in Burnaby this morning for the announcement.

In December, Falcon said he was optimistic the project would go ahead. He noted the province was in negotiations with the federal government for funding for it and planned to open a construction office ahead of signing off on the deal.

The B.C. government has already committed $410 million and TransLink $400 million to the Evergreen Line, but the federal funding was still needed.

The federal government, which is required to pay a third of the project, has already provided $67 million and was expected to match Victoria’s contribution.

That would leave the project $200 million short, which Falcon has previously suggested would likely be covered by a private-sector partner.

The Evergreen Line is expected to be completed in 2014.

However, the project could face other problems as TransLink struggles to boost revenues just to maintain the status quo. TransLink is already $100 million short of what it needs to maintain and expand transit services in 2009.

And unless it can boost revenues by $150 million annually by 2011, it could start axing services and infrastructure. If it wants to expand services, TransLink would require about $350 million more a year.

As a result of its shortfall, TransLink will have to start dipping into its surplus — money that was expected to be used to help finance the University of B.C. and Evergreen lines.

TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said he couldn’t comment until he has heard the details of the announcement.

ksinoski@vancouversun.com

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